NATIONAL YOUTH ASSEMBLY
As many of you know, part of my job as a missionary working with the Reformed Church in Hungary is writing English articles about various things happening in the wider church through mornings spent at the Ecumenical Office of the RCH. I spent time in Scotland during the end of August attending the Church of Scotland’s National Youth Assembly (NYA) as an member of my local Church of Scotland Congregation here in Budapest – and then I wrote all about it for my job at the RCH! (The two churches are close partners, and the congregation that I’m a part of here is actually a member of both the RCH and the CofS) If you’re interested in reading more articles that I’ve written, you can click here to head to the RCH’s english website or you can click here to sign up for their English e-newsletter.
The Church of Scotland’s National Youth Assembly (NYA), held from August 19-22 this year at Gartmore House in Stirlingshire, Scotland, is an important platform for the youth of the RCH’s sister church to have their voices heard within the wider context of the CofS. NYA is a long-weekend event where young adults can actively participate in the decision-making process within the CofS. Over the four day conference this year, topics up for discussion and debate were gender justice (in Scotland and in the world), mental health, and the future of ministry and fresh expressions of church.
Two delegates from Hungary attended this year’s NYA – Kearstin Bailey, the RCH’s GMI from America, as well as Fruzsina Harmati, a member of a Reformed Congregation in Debrecen. Kearstin has been an active member of St. Columba’s Scottish Mission since her arrival in Hungary 10 months ago and attended the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly in May as the Youth Rep for the International Presbytery of the CofS. Fruzsina has attended the RCH’s Youth Assembly twice as the delegate of the Hungarian Reformed Youth Association called Soli Deo Gloria and was very interested in attending NYA as an observer to learn more about how the CofS’s assembly works.
NYA is designed to give young adults a voice in the workings of the Church of Scotland. Once the discussions from the assembly are over, feedback from the sessions is collected and compiled into a report that is then published in the CofS Blue Book. This information is also collated into a speech that is presented to the next General Assembly by the NYA Moderator.
This year’s NYA Moderator, Andrew MacPherson, and the NYA Clerk, Lyndsay Kennedy, led the delegates through many fruitful discussion sessions, some of which got a bit heated. During each day of discussion, time was divided into blocs in which delegates got the opportunity to hear from experts on the topic for the day, attend workshops that related to the days theme, as well as discuss the issues at hand in both large and small group settings.
The first day of discussion was focused on gender justice in Scotland and in the world. Debate touched on topics such as the rigid gender binary in today’s world and the harm that it inflicts on anyone who does not fit the mold, the striking income inequality between men and women, as well as the need for the wider church to be an open and accepting place for all to express themselves however they feel most comfortable.
The subject of mental health was another intense topic – some of the young adults in attendance opened up about their own struggles with mental illness and the societal stigma that comes with it. Young people from the CofS were especially cognizant of the opportunities for the church to play a role in helping to support those with mental illness by journeying with them through their struggles.
The final day’s discussion centered around the future of ministry and a new CofS program called Fresh Expressions – meant to encourage churches to meet the un-churched in their community, where they’re at, in a an accessible and honest way. During the time for large-group dialogue on the topic, many youth gave tangible ideas for ways to do ministry in the future, as well as what they want the church to look like down the road.
Overall, the National Youth Assembly tackled some difficult and sometimes taboo subject matter in a way that was honest, respectful, and vital for the future of the church. The young people in attendance were not afraid to push the boundaries and think outside the box about the challenges facing the church in today’s society – certainly a good sign for the future of the Church of Scotland.
At the end of the Assembly, 19 youth were selected to serve alongside the NYA Moderator and Clerk as Youth Reps; together, they represent many presbyteries in Scotland as well as the Presbytery of England and, for the first time, the International Presbytery. The International Presbytery is represented by the RCH’s GMI, Kearstin Bailey, who attends St. Columba’s Scottish Mission in Budapest as her local congregation. These 19 young people will take the work of NYA forward, representing the assembly’s young people throughout the year, speaking out about issues that were discussed, attending presbytery meetings, and encouraging more young people to get involved in the CofS. Another big part of their responsibility is to support the NYA Moderator and Clerk by helping to write reports and prepare for the NYA report to be read at the GA in May by the NYA moderator. Of these 19, 9 will be chosen to represent the NYA at the GA, alongside Andrew MacPherson and Lyndsay Kennedy.
The NYA Moderator, Andrew MacPherson, will also be making a trip to Budapest in mid-September to help the Scottish Mission in Budapest celebrate its 175th anniversary. MacPherson will travel to Hungary as part of a delegation of around 30 people from the Church of Scotland and will spend the weekend enjoying the jubilee and learning more about how the CofS works in an international setting.